The Crusaders: Wavebreaker
Part 2: Grave Matters
Suzy, Abigail, and Kaleb materialised on the Spearhead platform with their schoolbags on their backs, having left Umi to return to base when Techsmith called Suzy back to take her up on her offer to help. James sat at the monitor station coordinating Elemental and Nocturne's impromptu patrol. Gunk finished tapping on the Spearhead console to step back and join Starbolt and Techsmith at the table, who stood with someone none of the young Crusaders recognised. Suzy sensed something familiar about the regally-dressed young woman, even though she'd never met her before. Abigail froze with widened eyes and a dropped jaw when she saw the unfamiliar figure. Kaleb wasted no time getting answers.
"Who's that?" He asked with a pointed finger.
"I am Sapphira, Princess of the Mortal Kingdom." She graciously answered, causing the pieces to click together in Suzy's head.
"Oh." Kaleb lowered his finger. "Alright."
"She's pretty…." Abigail quietly let slip. She caught herself, then looked around to see if anyone heard her, which it appeared they hadn't. Suzy quickly strode across the room to join her teammates at the table. Abigail and Kaleb were slower to follow.
"Susan Medina, the Red Cross." Sapphira cut Suzy short with a smile. "I know who you are. Everyone in Teranaux does." Sapphira bowed her head and did a curtsey. "It is a monumental honour to meet you. You look even more lovely than your marble likeness in the Shrine of Saviours." Suzy was taken aback as the Princess stood up again.
"There's…a statue of me?" Sapphira nodded.
"As well as of all the Heralds, forever remembering their service to the Kingdom. Yours is very popular with the commoners. It was a major part of the reconstruction effort after that wretched Necros was imprisoned. The Kingdom's architects were still designing it during your last visit to us. My father wanted to ensure your actions were correctly honoured and known to everyone in his Kingdom. And, if I may, I'd like to take this opportunity to personally thank you, not only for healing our realm and saving our civilisation but for saving his life as well." Suzy couldn't help grinning at everything Sapphira told her, which she didn't realise was also easing the tension built up from her conversation in the cafeteria at school.
"Y-you're welcome. I didn't know King Imperia had a daughter."
"He left me to care for the remnants of our people during the Dusk Stone crisis. I begged to assist him in the quest with the other Heralds, but he feared for my safety and wanted to ensure the Kingdom had leadership if he were to perish himself."
"Okay, it's great that you two are getting along…" Techsmith interrupted. "…but can we address the impending danger you mentioned in your dramatic entrance?" Sapphira nodded and her visage turned severe.
"Of course. Apologies. Vern's corpse has been stolen." Suzy's eyes widened as her fists involuntarily balled.
"What!?" She burst out, her sudden fury startling everyone in the room.
"I take it you'll be returning with me to Teranaux, then?" Suzy calmed down as Techsmith sidled up to her and put a soothing hand on her shoulder. Her vitriol was channelled into her words.
"Rest assured, Princess, these bastards will be lucky if they keep all their limbs after I've found them."
"Who's Vern?" Kaleb asked.
"The loyal goblin who sacrificed his life for my father's during Necros' uprising," Sapphira answered. "A memorial temple was built around the patch of land he was buried in so all could pay their respects. But…a group of pirates known as the Dreaded exhumed his remains and have taken them back to sea. The Dreaded have committed an untold number of horrid acts, but I never believed they could stoop so low." Kaleb leant over to Abigail.
"Is there a file on all this for me to read?" Abigail nodded.
"I'll lend my copy to you later." She said. Kaleb gave her an incredulous look.
"You have your own copy?"
"Why wouldn't I? It's Suzy's greatest adventure! Travelling to a world of swords and sorcery just like a fantasy film, fighting a necromancer's undead legion, sacrificing her powers to save the whole realm…just reading the report, I could tell that a million statues couldn't properly commemorate how amazing it was." Suzy turned to Abigail with a smile.
"You're a heck of a cheerleader, y'know that?" Abigail grinned back gratefully as she swayed slightly on the spot.
"Indeed." Sapphira took command of the conversation again. "And it is that past victory – and the part the rest of the Crusaders played in achieving it – that has brought me to you today. Time is limited as it was then. We must return to the Mortal Kingdom. Sa'garg will inform us of our task in greater detail."
"We're going with you, too." Gunk interjected. "Starbolt specifically stated as much since Princess Sapphira initially appeared to us after the dinosaur was dispatched." Starbolt himself jumped in to clarify Gunk's statement.
"And also, I've missed this train to fantasyland twice, and now that a free ticket's fallen in my lap, there's no way I'm letting it go." Techsmith grinned under her helmet at his enthusiasm.
"And also because innocent lives are in danger and it's our sacred duty to protect and serve those in need, right?"
"Sure, yeah, that too." Sapphira looked at Abigail and Kaleb.
"Are your schoolmates able to assist us? We'll need all the aid your team can offer."
"Yep!" Abigail jumped on the spot with a glowing smile and eyes full of wonder. "Kaleb and I here are both Crusaders and by golly, we'd both love to join you and offer our help in any way we can!"
"I was about to say exactly the same thing minus the ecstatic energy and the unironic use of the word 'golly'," Kaleb added flatly.
"Sorry, guys…" Starbolt started slowly. "…but it could raise some eyebrows if the three of you disappear from school at the exact same time of day." Kaleb crossed his arms while Abigail's face dropped and her neck slacked with sincere disappointment.
"Come on, we did the big 'welcome aboard' moment and you're gonna keep me sidelined?" Kaleb argued indignantly, surprising Starbolt.
"I thought you hated all this superhero stuff." Kaleb's defiance brought Abigail's head back up.
"It's growing on me. And even if it wasn't, everyone in my grade knows I can't stand going to class, so my absence wouldn't stir any pots."
"Please please please, Kon?" Abigail begged in her high-pitched tone, clasping her hands together below her round, milky-skinned face with shimmering eyes that were like chocolate buttons. "I've wanted to go ever since I read about it. It'd be a real dream come true. I'll catch up on all my schoolwork after we get back, I swear." Starbolt tried not to show it, but the two's pleas were started to convince him.
"Their respective powers are well suited for reconnaissance and exploration." Gunk chimed in. "Teranaux is quite vast in scale, so super speed and invisibility may be needed."
"Plus, we could always use an intangible hand or an explosion when the baddies show," Techsmith added.
"I've got nothing to add," Suzy said with a shrug.
"It seems the choice has been made for you," Sapphira commented. Starbolt sighed as he turned back to Kaleb and Abigail.
"Fine." He reluctantly conceded. Abigail hopped on the spot with a reignited joy while Kaleb let out a sigh of relief. The pair high-fived in perfect sync without changing expression or facing each other. "But if you two fall behind in class because of this, you're both grounded from superheroics for a week, got it?"
"Yes, sir," Abigail politely affirmed.
"Whatever." Kaleb concurred lazily. Starbolt turned back to Princess Sapphira.
"We're all in." He said. Sapphira nodded back at him with a smile of gratitude.
"Excellent. I'll contact Sa'garg to bring us to the Mortal Kingdom." She placed two fingers on the jewel in the centre of her tiara. It glowed blue for a few seconds before a portal to Teranaux burst open beside them. Starbolt smiled with anticipation when he saw it. Sapphira was first to step into the swirling vortex, followed by Starbolt, then Techsmith, then Gunk. Suzy, Abigail, and Kaleb all donned their costumes before following their teammates. The portal shrunk and vanished a second after Trailblazer stepped through. Silence filled the room in the absence of the heroes, leaving James alone in his chair in front of the screens while his teammates embarked on a grand quest in another universe.
"Damn monitor duty." James begrudgingly muttered to himself.
One by one, the Crusaders came out the other side of the portal to be greeted by the same awe-inspiring image. They stood on a circular platform, the portal swirling in a stone ring behind them, facing a dome of windows through which they saw the Mortal Kingdom in all its restored glory. Perfectly cylindrical towers built of spotless white stone spread as far as their eyes could see, adorned with swirling spires that sat atop them like red and gold hats. In the wide roads beneath them, countless commoners in colourful clothes went about their business, tending markets, couriering packages, sharing food. The shining sun in the centre of the spotless sky ensured none of the Kingdom's details escaped the superheroes.
"Lizzy?" Starbolt uttered in astonishment.
"Yeah, sweetie?" Techsmith shared his tone.
"Did this place look this good when you came here?"
"One of the benefits of interdimensional time dilation. Took a quite a while on this end to make it look so impressive." The group turned at the growly yet pleasant voice behind them. Standing in the centre of a vast, opulent marble hall containing dozens of tall bookshelves and tables that held up an endless array of objects and potions, they saw an orc with a friendly grin dressed in his mage robes. Red Cross smiled back broadly at the sight of him. "Suzy, Gunk, Lizzy. A pleasure to see you all again."
"Your recalling enchantment worked as well as you claimed, Sa'garg." Princess Sapphira said as she went down the steps towards him, tapping the jewel in her tiara she'd pressed her fingers on. "I was worried it may not provide my location accurately enough."
"We couldn't settle for anything less, your highness, given that we couldn't leave the portal open wherever you initially spawned." Red Cross was the quickest of the Crusaders to descend the stairs, making a beeline to Sa'garg. She wordlessly embraced the sorcerer, which he welcomed readily, smiles fixed on both their faces.
"That's really cute!" Phantomette commented with an endeared tone. Trailblazer crossed his arms and rolled his eyes under his mask's lenses. Once Red Cross and Sa'garg broke their hug, Starbolt stepped towards the mage with his hand out.
"I'm Starbolt, leader of the Crusaders." He said. Sa'garg shook his hand firmly.
"Sa'garg Tough-tusk, chief magical adviser to King Imperia. This is my office."
"Much appreciated. It's an honour to meet the head of such a fine unit." Sa'garg looked past Starbolt. "New recruits?"
"Phantomette and Trailblazer."
"Nice to meet you." Phantomette politely greeted. Trailblazer remained silent.
"To you as well, my dear." Sa'garg released Starbolt's hand. "I trust you know already what the Princess sought you out for."
"Some dumb sons of bitches made the biggest mistake of their lives." Red Cross harshly said. Sa'garg nodded solemnly.
"Indeed. But the true purpose of their actions is more sinister still."
"We kind of make a lifestyle out of thwarting sinister stuff, so lay it on us." Starbolt said.
"With the current state of Teranaux preventing the Heralds of Peace from uniting once again, the Crusaders are our only hope. Allow me to explain." Sa'garg put his hands together. His palms glowed before he turned them over, revealing an image composed of blue light. Between his hands stood three bulky figures that were somewhere between human and shark, with the one in the centre noticeably larger than the others. The jewellery they wore around their necks and up their arms did little to distract from the swords and axes made of water in their massive hands. The foreboding smiles below their soulless black eyes exposed the flesh twisted up in their rows of teeth.
"They aren't the Dreaded, are they?" Techsmith trepidatiously asked.
"They are indeed."
"They are but one of many pirate crews who bring danger and death to the land and sea, stealing and killing to their heart's content. Their species, the Ryn-Chos, have built their culture around the plundering and pillaging of towns and temples on dry land, considering it retribution against dry-landers for our ancestors supposedly robbing them. The Dreaded would be entirely unexceptional if not for their current captain. He's obsessed with returning the Ryn-Chos to their roots as an undersea empire spanning all of Teranaux before the waters receded and Mortals, Elves, and Dwarves came about."
"We…know his type." Starbolt commented. Trailblazer clenched a fist at the implication.
"What does any of this have to do with Vern, though?" Red Cross asked. Sa'garg put his hands together, disintegrating the magic hologram. His expression was grave as he spoke.
"Vern is needed to complete a ritual that will give the Dreaded the means to reshape Teranaux itself. He means to unleash the power of...a Universal." A silence set in and as the Crusaders observed the severe expressions on Sa'garg and Princess Sapphira's faces, they knew there was something they were missing. Phantomette raised her hand.
"What's a Universal?" She timidly asked. Sapphira snapped around in shock to Sa'garg.
"They don't know about the Universals yet?"
"Evidently." Gunk said.
"I would have expected such an advanced and expansive civilisation as yours to have learnt of them by now."
"Ouch," Techsmith said.
"The Universals are named for their presence in every dimension." Sa'garg began to explain. "They are the fundamental forces of existence given form, with limitless power respective to the aspect of reality they represent. There is a Universal of Life, one of Death, another of Chaos, another of Order, Evolution, Decay, and so on. Typically, they remain dormant in a dimension within the physical plane yet beyond physical reach which our sorcerers have dubbed 'Intraspace'. However, every dimension contains a location where, if precise conditions are met, a Universal can be summoned." All the Crusaders but Techsmith and Gunk glanced at each other with scepticism. The latter was unfazed while the former was totally intrigued.
"Go on." Techsmith urged with an edge of excitement.
"Ours is at the bottom of the ocean beneath the former Ryn-Chos capital city, where it is said that if the remains of a great hero are laid to rest, the Universal of Decay will manifest and possess the soul that presented the body, pleased with the knowledge that even the greatest idols must succumb to mortality. With the power of entropy at their fingertips, the Dreaded will be able to wipe out all surface life in an instant and recreate their undersea paradise. That is, assuming they don't cause the destruction of the entire realm attempting to do so."
"How do you know that's their plan?" Trailblazer inquired.
"Others have attempted this ploy in the past and exhibited similar methods in their planning," Sapphira answered. "None of them were amphibious humanoid sharks with an appetite for ancient vengeance, though, so all have failed."
"Right, yeah, the shark person thing is key to the whole operation. Obviously."
"This is not a matter to be taken lightly," Sa'garg stated. "The theft of Vern's remains occurred yesterday. In approximately four more days, the Dreaded will reach their destination on their sailing vessel. Time is a crucial factor here; they must be stopped before they can arrive at the sunken city."
"Then why not get the Heralds together?" Red Cross asked. "Or send, like, a naval fleet?"
"The Heralds are each…indisposed." Sa'garg looked at Princess Sapphira, who herself appeared quite regretful as she addressed the question in greater detail.
"The Elves and the Dwarves are at war, which I suppose is the sign that we've truly rebuilt since Necros. Nevir is too busy deciding which high-profile targets to pursue and Gistreth is too busy engineering tools of war while my father struggles vainly to broker peace between their Kingdoms for any of them to be of help. I attempted to persuade my father of the importance of intercepting the Dreaded, but he argued that no one has ever succeeded at what they intend to do and that he'll send a fleet to retrieve Vern's remains once he's negotiated peace between Elves and Dwarves."
"So, we're all doing this without King Imperia's knowledge or consent?" Starbolt asked.
"I'm afraid so," Sa'garg said. "The Princess approached me when she couldn't convince the King. It was my idea to enlist your team in the absence of the Heralds." Red Cross hung her head at the news about her friends. Techsmith once again placed an arm on her shoulder, thinking she needed reassurance. What Red Cross was actually doing was charging herself up by letting the importance of her role in resolving the looming crisis sink in. She looked back up with determination.
"You made the right decision." She said almost proudly. "We'll stop the Dreaded and get Vern back where he belongs." Sa'garg smiled.
"I'm certain of that."
"You're doing Teranaux a tremendous service, Crusaders," Sapphira said thankfully. "I will escort you to my personal sailing vessel, Wavebreaker. Its size and crew should suit your needs. We must depart at once."
"You're coming with us?" Starbolt asked.
"I admit, I was initially hesitant to accompany you, but I've already defied my father just bringing you here, and I can't stay complacent in my chambers as the fate of my world is at stake. My father's combat training should suffice in aiding the endeavour."
"Can't really argue with a Princess, can I?"
"Oh, you can. But I wouldn't advise it."
"And what about you?" Red Cross asked Sa'garg. He sighed as he began to explain.
"I would if I could, but as the King's chief magical adviser during this inter-Kingdom turmoil, my place must be here. Even without the presence of the Heralds, I have no doubt in your abilities, Suzy." Red Cross smirked with newfound invigoration at his words of encouragement.
"They didn't build that statue for nothing, right?"
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed. If you're really liking this story so far, give it a favourite, and tell your fellow authors to check it out. Next chapter, the Crusaders set sail on the Wavebreaker and go head-to-head with the Dreaded! If you have anything to say or suggest, any plot holes to point out, details needing clarification, or general questions to ask, feel free to PM me or leave a review. Finally, be sure to check out my community, The All-Star Multiverse, and my Facebook page, PancakeOverdose! Take care.